The Link Between Primary Health Care and Health Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians

Townsville Aboriginal and Islander health Service, Queensland

This review explores the evidence both domestically and internationally as to whether access to high quality primary health care is essential to enhancing Indigenous health status.

Page last updated: June 2008

In 2000 the Townsville Aboriginal and Islander Health Service (TAIHS) established a Mums and Babies Program with the aim of addressing community concern surrounding pregnancy, birth and infancy outcomes in Indigenous communities in North Queensland.127

While run from an Aboriginal community-controlled health service, the program developed close links with the Queensland Health Department’s Community Child Health Service and the Townsville Hospital’s Institute of Women’s and Children’s Health) as well as Centrelink, James Cook University, and the Townsville Division of General Practice.

A multidisciplinary team with a high proportion of Indigenous staff provides comprehensive antenatal care, postnatal care, immunisations, growth monitoring, developmental screening and hearing screening for pregnant women, families, infants and young children. It also had a strong quality improvement program to monitor the effectiveness of the interventions.

An evaluation of the program found a number of significant benefits for women for women and children living in Townsville following implementation of the Mums and Babies Program. Most importantly there were reductions in the number of preterm births and the perinatal mortality rate and an increase in mean birth weight.

These changes could be read as both a result of better access (with a significant increase in the number of antenatal visits and improvements in the timeliness of the first antenatal visit) and better quality antenatal care (with a documented increase in care planning, smoking cessation advice, antenatal education).

Townsville, Mums and Babies Program

Measures

• reduction in the number of preterm births
• reduction in the perinatal mortality rate
• increase in mean birth weight
• significant increase in the number of antenatal visits
• significant improvement in the timeliness of the first antenatal visit
• improvement in the quality of antenatal care with a documented increase in care planning, smoking cessation advice, antenatal education

Contributing factors

• community-controlled and community-based
• collaborative approach
- Aboriginal organisations and mainstream service providers
- government and non-government
- primary and hospital care
• primary health care
- maternal and child health
- multidisciplinary teams
- Indigenous workforce
• quality improvement approach

127 Panaretto, K., M. R. Mitchell, et al. (2007). "Sustainable antenatal care services in an urban Indigenous community: the Townsville experience." MJA. 187: 18-22. We understand that since this article was published there may have been some disruption to the program; the exact circumstances and seriousness of this are yet to be made clear.